addicted to Toluene

Toluene : Damages myelin in the brain (myelin facilitates neuron responses) leading to loss of vision/hearing; cognitive disruption, including speech impairment and memory loss; balance disorders and loss of dexterity; loss of control of bowel movements or urination.

Toluene is what gives the high “huffers” get from glue. It’s common in most shoe and furniture glues, and it’s destroying the lives of countless youngsters around the world. Fifteen years ago this was primarily a Latin American problem among homeless street kids, but in the ensuing decade and a half, the practice of “huffin” has spread around the world.

From Katmandu, Nepal to Odessa, Ukraine; from Manchester, England to Nairobi, Kenya; From Karachi to Tangiers to LaPaz to St. Petersburg, Russia, UNICEF and other U.N. agencies estimate there are 150 million homeless street kids in the world today and nearly 90% are abusing inhalants. Nowhere is the problem more acute than in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Susan Hollis, a Canadian journalist, wrote about street kids in Tegucigalpa a few years ago;

 “Coke, Pepsi, Gerber, read the labels on their bottles and jars, but Honduran street kids aren’t hustling daily for soda pop or baby food. They recycle the containers to carry an acrid, viscous, amber-coloured industrial grade glue that is cheaper than crack, gets them higher than cocaine, and costs just $15 Lempira ($1 Canadian) a hit. An eight-year-old can scrape that up, and they do.”

 Both ubiquitous and nearly invisible at the same time, glue sniffing is generally ignored in the Western press. Our hope is to change that. We want to put a personal face on this situation. We intend to meet and talk with and try to get to know these kids and hopefully make them visible enough to stimulate some change.

 So follow us as we travel and film. We’re heading to Honduras soon to begin our first shoot. We’ll be providing regular blog-updates and tweets, along with videos and pics as we work. We invite you to come along, watch us work, comment, give us your ideas, and let us know what you think. We hope that you’ll share our posts and subscribe to our blog.

Here’s a video we did some years ago about an NGO in Nairobi, Kenya that works with street youth that are addicted to inhalants: